Yes, one fat in particular can do this as part of a balanced healthy diet and lifestyle.
Can you guess which one?
After decades of controversy, experts are finally agreeing with our ancestors that Virgin coconut oil is “the healthiest oil on earth”. Courtesy of its many nutritional and pharmaceutical properties, including a clinically proven fat burning ability, Virgin coconut oil is now getting the recognition it deserves.
However, in the 1950’s, the story (ref. 1) was very different.
The powerful soy bean and corn industries, supported by the American Heart Association, claimed that coconut oil is an unhealthy saturated fat causing elevated cholesterol and heart disease. Despite many unsubstantiated claims, decades of saturated and coconut fat bashing ensued, so that the more profitable – and unhealthy - polyunsaturated fats could take over.
The result is that today unhealthy polyunsaturated fats (ref. 2) dominate many diets. Simultaneously, heart disease and obesity have become two of the major global health crisises.
Now many experts admit the tragedy of this misrepresentation, and agree that coconut oil is not just a ‘good’ saturated fat, but an exceptional healthy healing agent with many beneficial and weight management applications. This blog shows why it is so good, and specifically its powerful weight loss role.
What makes Virgin Coconut Oil so Good?
Before I answer that question, it’s key to understand the difference between Virgin and non-Virgin coconut oils. The former is pressed from fresh coconut flesh by purely mechanical or manual means. In comparison, non-Virgin oils usually come from dried coconut flesh (copra), extracted with chemicals and then bleached to sanitize the oils. Bleaching is necessary because the copra may be stored in poor conditions.
Most of the studies showing the health benefits of coconut oil were done on Virgin oils.
So, what makes Virgin coconut oil different from all other oils, especially other saturated fats?
The key difference is in the fat molecule. All fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. There are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs). The majority of saturated fats consumed today are LCFAs.
The molecular size or length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid is very important. This is because our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size.
It is the MCFAs in coconut fat products (oil/milk) which act as a powerful weight and cholesterol management method. Indeed, a key reason why coconut oil leads to a feeling of fullness and deceased fat storage is because when MFCAs are metabolized, ketone bodies are created in the liver. Research has shown these to have a strong appetite reducing effect helping you to lose fat faster. The fast rate of oxidation of MCFAs relative to LCFAs also leads to greater energy expenditure resulting in less body weight gain and decreased size of fat depots after several months of consumption.
So the easy to digest and absorb MCFAs appear to tell your body to burn fat for fuel, instead of storing it.
In contrast LCFAs are not metabolised in the liver. Rather, they are transported into the lymphatic system, deposited into adipose tissue and stored as fat.
Let’s now see some studies which show the above in action!
Studies of the Weight and Fat Loss Properties of Virgin Coconut Oil
A major study published in the Journal Lipids (ref. 3) consisted of testing the effects of either 2 tablespoons of Virgin coconut oil or 2 tablespoons of soybean oil on a group of 40 women over 28 days.
Results showed that the group who had the coconut oil enjoyed a decrease in abdominal fat, while the soybean oil group actually showed a slight increase in belly fat.
Additionally, the group who ate the coconut oil showed increased HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels, while the soybean oil group had decreased HDL cholesterol and increased LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol (ref. 4).
These results are further confirmed by extensive research summarised in The Journal of Nutrition (ref. 5) which showed how:
- Diets rich in saturated MCFAs, especially coconut oil, prompted a boost in metabolism, increase in energy, decrease in food consumption, reduced body weight and lower body fat mass.
- One study specifically tested how coconut oil reduces body fat. Body weight and fat storage were assessed relative to three different types of diets, including a low-fat diet, high-fat diet with LCFAs, and a high fat diet with MCFAs. At the end of the research period (44 days), the low-fat diet group stored an average of 0.47 grams of fat per day, the LCFA group stored 0.48 grams of fat per day, and the MCFA group stored a mere 0.19 grams per day (despite intentionally increasing calories).
- The MCFA group enjoyed a 60 % reduction in stored body fat compared to the other diets.
- MCFAs help increase feelings of fullness and lead to a reduction in calorie intake when compared to the same amount of calories from other fats.
Other Health Benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil
As if these weight and fat reducing effects of Virgin coconut oil are not impressive enough, there are even more health benefits you can enjoy. These include how coconut oil may help with brain boosting, wound healing, skin rejuvenation, inflammation reduction, fungal infection control and more (ref 6).
Perhaps another reason why Virgin coconut oil has so many health benefits is because it is considered an anti-oxidant. According to physiologist and biochemist Ray Peat, Ph.D. (ref. 7) ‘it has both direct and indirect antioxidant activities and helps prevent free radical formation.“
This anti-oxidant effect is enhanced by the fact that in addition to MCFAs, coconut oil has the very rare lauric and capric acids. Lauric acid is converted in the body into monolaurin. This has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. Capric acid, also has antimicrobial activity.
Hopefully, by now you may be impressed enough by what you’ve read, that you are asking: “How do I use Virgin coconut oil’?
How to use Virgin Coconut Oil and Dose?
I use it extensively. I add about two tablespoons to most of my meals, whether cooked or raw, and apply it regularly as a skin and hair moisturiser. It is particularly good for cooking courtesy of its high smoke point. This means it doesn’t burn quickly and release toxic fumes like some other oils. This source (ref. 8) lists no less than 122 creative uses for this remarkable natural ingredient!
Perhaps you can think of more!
What is the recommended intake?
There really isn’t one size fits all. It totally depends on your body’s needs and your taste preferences. If you are new to Virgin coconut oil, then start gradually with a couple of teaspoons daily. See how you feel and adjust accordingly.
I hope this article has helped to dispel the myth that saturated fats, and especially coconut oil are ‘bad’. On the contrary this ‘healthiest oil on earth’ may just be what your body yearns for. Please do share your experiences of using Virgin coconut oil, and especially how it may have helped you.
- For more on the fascinating history of the Rise and Fall of coconut oil, see: Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic doctor, coconut oil expert and author of The Coconut Oil Miracle http://www.coconut-connections.com/vco.htm The Oiling of America by Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon http://coconutoil.com/oiling_america/
- For a discussion about the different saturated fats by our founder Warren Matthews, see http://www.xtend-life.com/News/Xtend-Your-Life/Article/02-12-18/Fat_the_good_bad_and_the_ugly.aspx
- Journal of Lipids study: Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11745-009-3306-6?no-access=true#page-1
- Study showing how coconut oil elevates HDL Cholesterol and reduces abdominal fat.http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/dietary-coconut-oil-elevates-hdl-and-reduces-abdominal-obesity-women
- The Journal of Nutrition excellent summary of the many studies reviewing the physiological Effects of MCFAs: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/3/329.full
- More health benefits of Virgin coconut oil. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/13-evidence-based-medicinal-properties-coconut-oil?page=1
- The many and varied uses of coconut oil. http://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2012/01/52-uses-for-coconut-oil-the-simple-the-strange-and-the-downright-odd/